One of the biggest blessings of home education is that we can easily allow a slower child to take their time and really master something. It is also one of the pitfalls. There is a certain art in knowing exactly when to push and when to back off for a little while. For the most part, I think the average homeschooling parent does a reasonably good job of finding that balance. Oh sure, they might push a little too soon or wait a little too long, but on average, I think it’s ok. Unfortunately, sometimes you just miss the boat. From watching my kids, I learned pretty early on that if they got behind, they could catch up reasonably quickly, so I wasn’t really afraid of taking it slowly.
Well, I have two students that are definitely behind. I’ve watched them, I’ve given space, and now it’s time (well past time I think) to kick it up a notch. For the past week, I’ve really been focusing on the subjects that I once barely gave a nod to. After doing an assessment, mapping out a realistic goal for getting back on track, I realized that it’s not likely that I’m the only parent who has ever had to do this, and why not share what I’ve learned along the way.
My method begins with:
First, you have to make sure exactly where your student actually is. See, you often discover that they don’t know what you thought they did and know an awful lot more than you realized. Both. It really helps to sit down and take inventory of their progress in every subject/skill. I checked
If the student was at the 3rd grade level or approximately so, I marked it down. If I had any doubt, I marked below, not above their level. If it’s easy for them, they can always work faster through the easy stuff. Next was
I couldn’t just push a whole new slew of things on the kid. After all, if they are behind due to lack of ability, they’re not suddenly going to have all new abilities. If they’re behind due to my own fault, shoving them into a new level of expectations overnight is just going to exasperate them for my failing. Wrong. I had to choose one or two things to focus on and then I can always add more later.
Bible was a top one for me. It was non-negotiable. I found where their knowledge was lacking which makes it an easy starting place.
For my slow reader, I discovered that I needed to focus on spelling as well as reading together. Everything else was set aside for now. Next I’ll add in more reading and penmanship, but I know that an older student can fly through several years worth of work in just a few months given help, motivation, and the maturity that comes with age.
For my other student, I realized that a good 60-75% of being behind is due to a character flaw. Because the student WAS a little slow, I’ve allowed that to become a defining characteristic. Not a good idea. I need to make diligence and responsibility the top choices.
One thing I learned for myself is that I have to commit for a certain amount of time. If I don’t, I find that life can crowd out the new way of doing things. I start small and then add on to my plans at smaller intervals. I do this because it works for me. My goal this time has been until January 31. On that day, I’ll reevaluate (next step), and determine if I need another full month of focus on the same things or if it is time to move onto my next priority and add more to their schedules.
Inevitably, after a few days or weeks, you tend to notice where your new focus is off and what you need to change in order to make it a success. I’m obviously not at that point yet. When I’ve been here before, I’ve almost ALWAYS discovered that I was still expecting too little. I won’t be surprised if that happens again.
You know, I could beat myself over the head for all the ways I’ve “failed” to let this happen at all, but I’m not going to. Experience has taught me that a child who is behind can catch up in a reasonable amount of time without undue pressure (but definitely needing to step up the work-ethic). Allowing myself to wallow in self-deprecation does none of us any good and weakens my resolve. When I already feel defeated, I rarely feel like killing myself to prove to myself that I’m “better than that.” I usually give up– for a while. That just isn’t productive. I’d rather get in there, get it done, and move on. I can’t change the past, but I can change tomorrow.
I know there are homeschool moms who have never looked over their students’ curricula and thought, “Hmm, I think we’re behind here.” I know there are. However, I know a lot more moms that say, “AAAK! We’re falling farther and farther behind. I need to DO something.” Well, then do something. Start small, get it done, and don’t try to “undo” the past. It can’t be. Just catch the present up to where you need to be in the future.